The answer for Andrew Morrish, Headteacher at
Victoria Park Academy in the West Midlands, is,
in essence, “Yes, given the right conditions.”
Situated in the West Midlands, Victoria Park has a large number
of pupils for whom English is an additional language, and a high
percentage of pupils on Free School Meals. In 2007, the school was
taken out of Special Measures by Ofsted and four years later in 2011,
was judged to be Outstanding.
Case Study – Victoria Park Primary Academy
The numbers: a summary
• Victoria Park Academy progressed from
Special Measures in 2007 to Outstanding in 2011.
• Attainment more than doubled from 39% in 2006
English/Maths combined to 86% in 2012
(against a predicted RoL score of 65%).
• As a result of ‘Shape the Future’ and 1:1 devices
in Y6, plus netbooks throughout the school,
the attainment gap for 2012 continues to close
and is only 0.16 for disadvantaged pupils based on an
expected Y6 APS of 25.5 in February 2013 according to
school’s own tracking. Pupils are confident and assured
learners able to use the Microsoft Learning Suite in
innovative ways to enhance their learning.
• In 2012, 100% of pupils achieved at least expected
progress in maths at KS2, and all but one pupil in
English. In 2013, the school expects it to be 100% in
both English and maths.
Although the 1:1 devices were purchased for Years 5 and 6,
devices such as netbooks and desktop computers are available
lower down in the school. Natasha Try, ICT Leader, says that
although a 1:1 scheme isn’t running in Years 2, 3 and 4, there are
sufficient devices available for classroom use to make the ratio
almost 1:1. So why did the school decide to go down the 1:1 route
via Shape the Future? Andrew Morrish again:
“We received a call from Shirelands Collegiate Academy, one
of our main local secondary schools and judged ‘Outstanding’
by Ofsted. They invited us to take part in a pilot scheme.
What convinced me were the software suite installed on each
device, and the companies involved: RM Education and Microsoft.
It’s not like these are tin pot companies! Given the involvement
of both Microsoft and RM, plus the software bundle,
not to mention the discounted price of the devices themselves,
I’d have had to be crazy to not give it serious consideration.”
So has the scheme been worthwhile?
To cut to the chase, has it led to improved results?
As Kate Fowler, Deputy Headteacher, says,
“Everything the school does is interlinked: the 1:1 devices, the
tools on them such as OneNote, role-play (such as pretending
to be Victorians), the emphasis on speaking and listening,
school trips and, last but not least, peer-assisted learning”.
For this reason it is difficult to unravel it all and break it down into
statements like “initiative X on its own has led to outcome Y”.
However, by the school’s comprehensive tracking and attention
to detail, Morrish is able to say, for example, that as a result of the
use of 1:1 devices in class (e.g. netbooks) to complement
Building Learning Power (BLP), thinking tools and TASC wheels,
in 2011 and 2012 the two whole levels progress in English of
Free School Meal (FSM) pupils increased to 5 points above non-FSM
pupils (97% FSM/92% non-FSM). Ofsted themselves commented that:
“Information and communication technology is also used very
well to enrich learning, including enabling pupils to video or
record their work, or to present their work to others”
Despite the challenge of identifying precisely the effects that can be
directly attributed to the 1:1 programme, there can be no doubt that
it has been a vital component in the school’s success in helping its
children make astounding progress. Why? Because it has enabled the
pupils to learn when and where they want to and, crucially, has helped
to engage the children’s parents and siblings in their education.
Take Ravinder’s parents, for example. They attended workshops
for parents which the school organised – including one in which
the pupils showed parents how to stay safe on the internet and
designed posters to illustrate this! Her dad has even tried Kodu,
Microsoft’s free games-creation program, for himself.
You can see below what the numbers look like in terms of
improved results, but what they won’t tell you is the buzz of
excitement that pervades the school. The pupils love using
the tablet devices, and the adults involved – teachers, parents
and governors – regard them as crucial to the school’s
More of that later, but an important, perhaps surprising,
statement by Morrish is:
“There is no way I’d have embarked on this scheme when
the school was first in special measures. The important
thing then was to go back to basics, making sure good
teaching and learning was in place, and restoring
By the time the school did adopt the 1:1 initiative
made possible by the RM Education and Microsoft
Shape the Future scheme, it had tried out a number of
different ideas (pupil voting systems was one), and put
into place several approaches to support and enhance the
pupils’ learning. Morrish believes this is key:
“Context is important: you have to have a history
of trying things out.”
Thus the school has introduced a range of approaches.
One is to create a new type of role known as an Enrichment
Coach. Vicky, one of the Coaches and a qualified teacher,
tells us that her job is to liaise with classroom teachers to see
which pupils are in danger of falling behind, by studying the
assessment data. Then a programme of early intervention
kicks in, taking into account the child’s preferred learning
styles, to make sure progress continues to be made. Indeed,
part of the school’s Pupil Premium funding has been used to
pay for a senior teacher to provide daily intervention sessions
for disadvantaged pupils using devices and OneNote to
close the attainment gap in English and maths. It works: the
school’s 2013 tracking shows that this group are just 0.16
Average Points Score (APS) behind national expectations
(25.5) compared with 0.8 for the rest of cohort.
Other innovations introduced by the school include
peer-assisted learning groups (PALs), a new curriculum that
involves real-world experiences and enterprise activities (the
school works closely with the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO)),
structured learning activities through a TASC (Thinking
Actively in a Social Context) wheel and teacher intervention.
Victoria Park is also about to pilot the use of RM Books.
The aim here is to encourage the children to use their devices
to read, and thereby help to develop their literacy skills.
This shouldn’t be too difficult. As one pupil said:
“I prefer reading books on the computer to paper ones.”
Case Study – Victoria Park Primary Academy
Because of this, another, perhaps unforeseen outcome, has been
that lessons now have a much faster pace than they used to.
Pupils help each other with homework via the Skype app installed
on their devices, organise revision notes for SATs using OneNote
and make videos – sometimes with “off-message” results:
“We filmed the teacher and put a dinosaur next to him
when we edited the video!”
Although that’s a rather flippant remark, it nicely illustrates
something that all visitors to the school would notice: the children
are able to talk very articulately about their
work with the device. One of them told us,
for example, that she was enjoying improved
scores in both literacy and maths. Another was
even able to tell us that she had leapt from a
level 4a in maths to a 5b since the start of
the year. Like the others, she not only knows
what level she is on, but what her target level is.
Which brings us back to the thorny problem
of tracking. In the school’s 2011 inspection
report, Ofsted observed that:
“Systems for tracking progress are robust,
and challenging targets are set.”
As mentioned earlier, close attention is paid to the children’s
progress to ensure that none fall by the wayside. That’s, if you
will, at the micro level. The macro approach is equally impressive,
with a school development plan which sets out clearly-defined
target outcomes and activities. These are monitored through a
programme of lesson observations, listening to pupils, Governor
evaluation visits and formal feedback to the Governing Body.
But is cost an issue? According to Ruth, representing the
Governing Body, embarking on the Shape the Future scheme
was the best thing the school has done. Morrish points out that
having the devices can save money, for instance on support staff
and photocopying. But, he says:
“Ultimately it depends on what a school considers a child’s
education is worth. A device costing £300 is less than £1 a day!
As Vicky, one of the school’s Enrichment Coaches puts it:
“All children should have access to these devices,
regardless of how disadvantaged they are. This is 2013!”
They have become much more involved in Ravinder’s school
work now that they can spend time with her looking at what
she has done on her tablet.
Ruth, a parent Governor, has had a similar experience:
“I can interact with my daughter more because I can now
understand it. I have had to go on a course!”
She too has been involved in the parental workshops.
But what of the children? It’s quite clear that Shape the Future
has been transformational. On a purely pragmatic level, the
tablets, with their touch-screen interface, are
ideal for EAL children for whom the keyboard
may be meaningless. However, because the
devices can be used either as a mini-laptop
or a tablet, pupils are not tied to only one
mode of working.
Both parents and teachers say the children
are much more confident now. For example,
Ruth says that her daughter’s maths has
improved so much thanks to using the tablet
that her self-confidence has had a real boost.
Matt Wynne, a teacher at the school, says that pupils are
much more confident now. Not only do they not have to
worry about losing their work, because it is saved online, but
even less able pupils can do high-calibre work involving, say,
taking photos with their tablet and then writing a sentence or
two about them.
The children are definitely very enthusiastic about the
scheme, with one declaring:
“In Year 5 I used to stay in bed for an extra ten minutes,
but now I want to come to school straight away.”
The pupils share their discoveries about websites or using
the software, with both their friends and their teachers. In
one class, the “ICT guru” is a pupil who, generally speaking,
is a low-attainer, showing that the device helps to bring
out children’s hidden talents. Indeed, because the children
have proved so proficient at using the software, whether
to organise their work or making a video, teachers tend to
allow the pupils to decide for themselves which is the most
appropriate application to use for a particular assignment.
Here’s just one example of how the children made use of
their tablets. One of the projects they undertook, as part of
their termly social enterprise learning challenge, involved
learning all about how the Victorians made and then
sold soap. The children used OneNote to make notes on
the different techniques for selling and marketing soap,
and to do research on how it was made.
A key point to remember is that the devices have given
many of the children opportunities they would not have
had otherwise. For example, some either had no access
whatsoever to a computer at home, or had to share
the family computer with eight or more other
people. Indeed, the biggest single impact of the
scheme has been on home learning, with
pupils being able to do research and
problem-solving around a topic before
they even come to the lesson. This in itself
has encouraged the children to develop
independent learning skills. (Being able to work
at home is also a great advantage when children
are off sick for any length of time, of course).
“I can interact
with my daughter
I can now